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Society/business Science Shops Language, Culture and Communication Projecten

Participative Democracy on a local scale

Ba- or Ma-thesis/placement CIS, ELC, Philosophy

Democracy should mean more than occasionally casting your vote. Especially local governments are supposed to be in direct contact with their citizens, taking in their wishes, concerns and questions. But on the other hand, Dutch municipalities are merged into bigger organisations, procedures are automated and the national government is in control in the end. Are you interested in how national law and regulations are processed on a local scale? Do you want to help municipalities to find ways to involve their inhabitants in their plans? The Science Shop Language, Culture and Communication and Kenniscentrum Filosofie are looking for engaged students for a project from Puur Publiek. This is your chance to research a real life case and contribute to society.

Citizen participation

The introduction of the Environment and Planning Act is one of the largest and most far-reaching legislative changes that the Dutch government has seen. This law combines 26 existing laws in the areas of construction, environment, nature, water management and spatial planning into one law. In addition, the introduction of the Environment and Planning Act reduces 120 General Administrative Orders and 65 visions to 4 Orders and 1 vision.

The aim of the central government, provinces and municipalities in this legislative change is to juridically simplify various parts of the physical living environment. “Participation” is one of the key factors in the new Act. That means that when you want to plan something, you need to engage with groups that are involved and prove to what extent there is support for your plans in the immediate (living) environment. Municipalities themselves are also obliged to set up citizen participation in spatial planning projects.

The introduction of the Environment and Planning Act means a drastic change in working methods, behavior and attitude for municipal organizations. It is also new for residents, entrepreneurs and (chain) partners, so a field of tension or conflict of interest is to be expected.

The case of Puur Publiek

Puur Publiek is a company based in the Northern-Netherlands, that likes to stimulate local governments or other organisations in the public sector to get connected to their environment. The company initialises and facilitates this process. Puur Publiek sees consultation or participation of communities for non profit organisations as a task with social importance. In our opinion, the democracy of our society depends on how a local government relates to citizens and how citizens place their trust in their local municipality. In this playing field, Puur Publiek wants to analyse and organise the interaction between organisations and citizens.

At the moment Puur Publiek is engaged in a participation project with the municipality of Emmen (107,000 inhabitants). Within the municipal organisation, a Program Team is charged with the implementation of the Environment and Planning Act. The Program consists of the sub-projects: a. Environmental Plan, Permits, Supervision and Enforcement; b. ICT; c. Construction Quality Assurance Act and d. Participation and Communication. The Participation and Communication subproject works with pilots. These pilot projects are intended to gain experience on the start and significance of the Environment and Planning Act. The municipality has called in Puur Publiek for the communication strategy and a training/discussion trajectory.

What do we want to know?

Puur Publiek and the municipality of Emmen are interested in finding the answers to the following questions:

● What does the Environment and Planning Act mean for the municipal organisation, in terms of changes in behaviour, attitude and culture? What type of behavior and attitude is required ideally?

● To what extent does internal and external communication contribute to achieving the objectives of the board, the management versus those of the initiators? Which communication strategy is most effective?

● To what extent do the pilot projects of Participation contribute to improved support for the introduction of the Environment and Planning Act? Do they show an effective form of service that leads to the desired acceleration and simplification?

You could use literature and data studies, qualitative analysis, surveys and interviews in your research. Apart from your thesis, we would like you to deliver a practical product Puur Publiek and municipalities could use, for example a policy report or public summary with recommendations.

Who are we looking for?

● Students who are interested in local government, democracy and communication (for example from European Languages and Culture/Politics, Communication and Information Science, Philosophy). If possible, we might form a multidisciplinary team to share knowledge and ideas.

● Students who are looking for a societal relevant subject for their bachelor- or masterthesis (which could be combined with a placement at PuurPubliek)

● Communicative and engaged people who like to apply what they know, learn and collaborate and broaden their horizon.

● International students are welcome in this project, but as many documents and meetings will be in Dutch, a passive proficiency in Dutch is recommended.

Last modified:07 February 2022 4.52 p.m.
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